2013-01-15 "Fighting for Correct Standards; Disturbing Turn in Anti-Repression Battle Addressed in Letter from Raymond Lotta" from "Revcom.us" [http://revcom.us/a/292/disturbing-turn-in-anti-repression-battle-addressed-in-letter-from-raymond-lotta-en.html]:
The following letter by Raymond Lotta was sent in early January to signers of the “Call To Stand Together to Resist the Obama Administration’s Assault on Fundamental Rights.” (The Call is available online at opposerepressionndaa.net. It can also be found in Revolution#278, August 19, 2012.) The letter concerns the battle against the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This law, signed by President Obama at the end of December 2011, allows for the indefinite military detention, without charge or trial, of a broad and vague category of people. It is a dangerous development.
On January 2 of this year, President Obama signed into law the NDAA of 2013. Not only does it contain the same detention provisions; it also effectively keeps the Guantánamo Bay prison-torture center open for another year, along with the continuation of illegal military commission trials.
Once again, Barack Obama has proven, despite the rhetoric and promises that the government is committed to “due process” and constitutional law, to be a world-class champion and enabler of heightened repression and the trampling of all kinds of basic rights.
The NDAA, along with other repressive moves, must be fought. But as this letter emphasizes, this battle must be waged in a way that strengthens people’s unity and determination, rather than dividing people from each other—and must be fought in a way that does not aid the government in its efforts to single out and target particular political forces and individuals.
Dear Signers of the Call to Stand Together to Oppose the Obama Administration’s Dangerous Assault on Fundamental Rights,
I am writing to inform you of a quite disturbing development in the lawsuit against the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). I write as one of the main initiators of the Call but am speaking only for myself and not for other signatories or their organizational/institutional affiliations.
The journalist Chris Hedges and the legal team in the case have decided to incorporate into a recent appeal the same erroneous and harmful characterization of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA and its Chairman Bob Avakian that was brought to public attention in our Call. This mischaracterization could be used as a pretext to put the RCP in a category of terrorist-like organizations—and could expose the Party and Avakian to government investigation and persecution, as well as to broader harassment.
The decision to make this mischaracterization a pivot point of the continuing challenge to the NDAA amounts to throwing the RCP and Bob Avakian under the bus. It goes against the important principle of “standing together” that our Call is fighting for, and is highly detrimental to the movements of resistance and for social change.
This commentary is aimed at raising awareness of the situation. While I feel there is a need for a response, I am not proposing any particular course of action; and I do want to hear from the signers.
By way of background:
As some of you may know, the Obama administration succeeded in overturning the injunction ordered by Judge Katherine Forrest against section 1021 of the NDAA. This is the provision that allows for indefinite military detention, without charge or trial, of a broad and vague category of people. In carrying the lawsuit forward, the lawyers for Hedges et al. v Obama et al. filed a “Brief for Plaintiffs-Appellees” to the U.S. Court of Appeals 2nd District on December 10.
In the “Brief for Plaintiffs-Appellees,” earlier testimony from Hedges is reproduced in which he ill-informedly describes the RCP as an “advocate of violence” and an organization that “embrace[s] acts that could be construed as terrorist.” He argues that the NDAA has “injured”his activity as a journalist, because he is now reluctant to interview figures from groups (like the RCP with whom he has had past associations) that “advocate violence” given the implications of the NDAA and its threat of incarceration. Thus, he complains, the NDAA is impeding his journalistic work and causing him “injury.” Never mind the dangers, impediments, and possible injury that he is bringing to others!
This is politically and morally unconscionable.
To go back a little further. The mischaracterization of the RCP and Avakian originally appeared in Judge Katherine Forrest’s May 16 ruling on the case, but was actually drawn from testimony given by Hedges. It was bad that Hedges dragged the party and Avakian into this case in the first place. Still, it was the court ruling that put the RCP and Avakian in the crosshairs of possible repression. And it was this problematic aspect of Judge Forrest’s mainly positive ruling that was the focus of concern in our Call.
In response to the fallacious description of the RCP and Avakian in that ruling, an amicus [friend of the court] brief was filed to set the record straight about the actual political outlook and strategic perspective of the RCP and Bob Avakian. The amicus brief made very clear the RCP’s and Avakian’s philosophical-political opposition to terrorism. (See "Brief Filed Objecting to Dangerous Mischaracterization of RCP,USA" in Revolution #275, July 22, 2012 [http://www.revcom.us/a/275/brief-filed-objecting-to-dangerous-mischaracterization-of-RCPUSA-en.html]) I had also written Hedges and the other plaintiffs about the mischaracterization.
Following the ruling, our Call to Stand Together to Oppose the Obama Administration’s Dangerous Assault on Fundamental Rights was issued. It summons resistance to the NDAA, unites with the overall positive thrust of the Hedges et al. lawsuit, but also, with regard to the dangers posed to the RCP and its Chairman, popularizes the self-critical reflections of Pastor Niemöller, reflecting on his experience in Germany in the early 1930s: we must not allow the powers-that-be to determine what organizations are politically acceptable or unacceptable, and we must stand against attempts to divide progressive, radical, and revolutionary forces along any such lines. Our Call was signed by over 750 people, including a wide range of social activists, academics, artists, and prominent voices including Cornel West and Daniel Ellsberg, and was published as a paid ad in the November 5 issue of The Nation.
Yet in the face of and in total disregard of the amicus brief filed, the overtures I have made to meet and discuss these matters with Hedges, and (not least) the publication of the Call, Chris Hedges and the legal team are now actively invoking the toxic mischaracterization, as expressed in the December 10 appeal to the 2nd District Court.
I believe it is very important to mount a response to this.
There is the potential harm that this December 10 appeal filing and the whole mischaracterization in the court record might cause the RCP and Bob Avakian.
At the same time, this situation underscores the need to affirm and struggle for standards in the movements against repression and for social change. There’s plenty of room to disagree on issues of analysis, strategy, and goals; and we can and must engage in sharp, substantive, and principled debate and polemic. But it is not acceptable for a Chris Hedges a) to propagate a distorted account of what the RCP and its Chairman stand for, including in legal proceedings, that can only aid the government; and b) to put the winning of this case (important as that is) above the larger interests of progressive, radical, and revolutionary movements. This really crosses the line.
I plan to reach out to various prominent voices of conscience about this situation. I also plan to do a webcast presentation about these issues some time this month. It would be important for signers of the Call to weigh in and write back on the situation. For those who agree with the broad outlines of the assessment that I am making, it would be good to share your ideas on how to register protest with Hedges. We must apply the principles of our Call to this recent disturbing turn in the lawsuit and forge greater determination and unity.
In solidarity, Raymond Lotta